A letter released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on 20 May 2015, the “Letter to Abu Abdallah al-Hajj”, was written by an al-Qaeda leader on 17 December 2007. The letter, reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and some important sections highlighted bold, is interesting for several reasons. Continue reading
Among the documents recovered from Usama bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad was the “Letter to Karim”, dated 18 October 2007. The letter was released in 2015 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). “Karim” likely refers to Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), the leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), the predecessor organization to the Islamic State, after the group’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), was killed in June 2006. The letter is reproduced below with some interesting details highlighted in bold. Continue reading
Brian Fishman’s The Master Plan provides a comprehensive history of the Islamic State’s (IS) strategic evolution, covering the personalities and events that shaped one of the most feared terrorist-insurgent groups that has ever existed. Eminently readable, in places even amusing—no small feat in a book about IS—Fishman flips with ease between the overview and the granular to demonstrate his points, using new sources that will allow as much supplementary research as a reader could wish for, and ties it together in a narrative that will be of use to both specialists and generalists. Continue reading
The forty-first edition of the Islamic State’s newsletter, al-Naba, was released within the territory of the caliphate on 30 July 2016 and released online on 2 August; it and the forty-third edition (released 13 and 16 August) contained an obituary for Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), the caliph’s deputy, who was killed on 25 March. The obituaries were entitled, “The Worshipping Scholar and the Mujahid Preacher: Shaykh Abu Ali al-Anbari”. The German version of the third issue of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine on 11 November contained this obituary. Below is a very rough translation. Some interesting or important sections have been highlighted in bold. The subheadings are mine.
On 20 November 2016, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence in Syria, published its first official account of how JFS, previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra, split from its parent organization, the group we now know as the Islamic State (IS). The statement was composed by Abdelraheem Atoun (Abu Abdullah al-Shami), identified as the General Judge of JFS. It is apparently drawn from the book, “Under the Shade of the Tree of Jihad” (p. 177-194), and the post was entitled, “The Establishment of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Events of al-Sham [Syria] from the Beginning of the Disagreement to the Announcement of al-Dawla [the State]”. On 27 November, Bilad al-Sham Media released an English language version of this statement, which is reproduced below with some editions for spelling, grammar, and so on, and some especially notable sections bolded. Continue reading
In the last few months I’ve increasingly focussed on the former (Saddam) regime elements (FREs) within the Islamic State (I.S.). There’s now an entire section on this blog about it, and Aaron Zelin over at Jihadology recently gave me time to elaborate in a podcast.
In studying this topic there is one inescapable name: Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, better-known by his pseudonym Haji Bakr, and sometimes by his kunya, Abu Bakr al-Iraqi. Al-Khlifawi is a former colonel in an elite intelligence unit of the Saddam Hussein regime—focussed on air defence at Habbaniya airbase, though what exactly that entails is murky. Al-Khlifawi was also apparently involved in weapons development.
Al-Khlifawi came to international attention in April when Christoph Reuter published an article in Der Spiegel naming al-Khlifawi as the “architect” of I.S.’s expansion into Syria, and the man who had been “pulling the strings at IS for years.” Continue reading
The spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, gave a speech via audio message on 11 May 2014, entitled “‘Adhr’a emir al-Qaeda” (Apologies, emir of al-Qaeda). Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, disowned ISIS, al-Qaeda’s prior Iraqi branch, in February, and then gave an extended statement a few days ago that placed blame for the schism squarely on ISIS. Al-Adnani’s speech was a response to al-Zawahiri, and it was among ISIS’s most stern attacks on al-Qaeda so far. Al-Adnani denounced al-Zawahiri for allegedly deviating from the outlook of Usama bin Ladin. Al-Adnani called on al-Zawahiri to reverse his ruling that accepted Jabhat al-Nusra’s split from ISIS. Al-Nusra has rebelliously broken its pledge of allegiance to ISIS, al-Adnani says, and al-Zawahiri’s duty was to side with ISIS against this renegade—not to join in a campaign of sedition and conspiracy against ISIS. Most intriguingly, al-Adnani denied that ISIS had ever been, in a formal sense, subordinate to al-Qaeda. Rather, says al-Adnani, ISIS had placed itself in a position of voluntarily labelling themselves as al-Qaeda and accepting the advice of the “elders of jihad” in order to unite the ranks of the jihadists. But, says al-Adnani, this was not a command relationship for ISIS’s internal affairs: witness, al-Adnani says, ISIS’s refusal to listen to al-Qaeda’s order to cease attacking Shi’i civilians. Though, says al-Adnani, ISIS did obey al-Qaeda in external matters, specifically not targeting Iran, where al-Qaeda has an important facilitation network that serves as its supply line from Afghanistan-Pakistan to the Arab world. Al-Adnani’s speech was translated today by Musa Cerantonio, an Australian convert to Islam who is one of ISIS’s most important international propagandist-recruiters. Al-Adnani’s speech is reprinted below. Continue reading
As-Sabah Media released a video on 3 May 2014 that contained a speech from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, responding to the ferocious statement by the spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which denied that ISIS was ever under al-Qaeda’s command and thus al-Zawahiri’s expulsion of ISIS from al-Qaeda in February was a meaningless gesture. Al-Zawahiri presents a compelling case to the contrary, drawing on documents sent by ISIS’s leaders, past and present, to al-Qaeda, some of which are public—taken in the raid that killed Usama bin Ladin. Al-Zawahiri concludes with a call for ISIS to return to the fold, to accept al-Zawahiri’s order that ISIS leave Syria and return to Iraq—even if they think it is unjust—for the sake of jihadi unity and avoiding the shedding of Muslim blood. The speech is entitled, “Testimonial to Preserve the Blood of the Mujahideen in Syria,” and was translated by Pieter Van Ostaeyen at Flashpoint Partners. It is reproduced below with some minor editions and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading